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What is your fishing gear?


Jan 30, 2006
Folks, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that in more than 2 decades of tripping on this coast I have only fished from my kayak once. That was with a hand line.

My 2023 resolution is to get comfortable kayak fishing so that I can supplement my food on long trips. So help a newbie out: what sort of gear do you carry? And how do you incorporate fishing into your paddling routine? Fish only on rest days, or troll while underway? And assuming you land the ‘big one’, how do you deal with leftover meat?

As always, thanks for any tips and tricks you can give!

Since I fish for bottom feeders such as Lingcod and Kelp Greenling, I stick to a hand line "jigger" with a single lure. I've admired the kayakers who fit rocket launchers on their boats and troll for salmon while underway. But on a touring kayak, a rod seems like a really effective lever for pulling the boat over. It's a different story on the wide SOTs made for fishing, but I don't use one of those.

I have also carried crab traps, ranging from the one person "Jolly Good" trap that slides in front of the foot pegs on solo trips, to a full size Flex Fold trap, but only when I knew we were kayaking into a basecamp we'd be at for several days, so I could set it for a good long time.
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I haven;t fished on trips, but instead do it as part of a day trip (or as the main goal of a day trip).

I have used a hand line with limited success for bottom fish (rock cod and the like). Seems like I lose more value in lures than I gain in fish.

Jason Self of Trinidad, CA (formerly of Alder Creek in Portland, OR) wrote an article and I pretty much match his gear and strategy. Scan of the article is at https://www.dropbox.com/s/dwijvm24bajao38/op22-kayak-fishing-v1.pdf?dl=0. Note - if it isn't appropriate/legal to put a scan of the article up here, let me know and I will remove this paragraph.

I have a 4' Hawaiian throw net I use for bait fish, particularly herring when they are running. I was out paddling yesterday and it does look like the run has started here in San Francisco Bay, so I hope to go out tomorrow and see what I can get. They may be called bait fish, but we eat them.

I also have 2 collapsible crab traps (this one, but I think it was cheaper at other sites) I use for dungenous and rock crab. Nice to drop them off my launch beach and go for a paddle and come back a few hours later and hopefully have dinner waiting. I use fats I trim from meats before we cook them as bait - stuff like chicken skin. The past few years, Fish and Wildlife has limited crab traps to prevent whale entanglements, so they delay use of traps, but allow rings or snares. Started using a ring this season with some success. The rings also seem to pack easier on the deck of the kayak, which is nice as I have a surf launch where I crab (though I do choose my days carefully). Likely neither of these would be that convenient for expeditions.
I use a short heavy rod that fits in front of my cockpit without hanging over the bow. I use a simple mooching reel with 30lb test that minimizes lure loss. It is tied to the boat so I don't lose it stupidly or if a big fish (ha!) hits the lure while I am trolling with the rod on my lap. Most rockfish are caught jigging but more salmon while trolling.
I have hooked some stupidly big fish without getting capsized even by one that dragged me into the kelp...
The major capsize hazard seems to me to be while trying to unhook from the bottom/kelp as a sudden release might take you over the other side! Just watch your angles and try to straight-line it.
Mind you, my regular touring boat is not one of those tippy Euroboats...
I stop and fish when and if I feel like it not on any particular schedule, though if I was hoping for supper I would do that later in the day. If a fish is too big for quick consumption I release it. (Not a regular occurrence).
I have used handlines but found them prone to tangling, but perhaps that is just me (see my moniker).
I have considered a collapsable Tenkara rod for fly fishing for black cod or surf perch but that is a bit niche...
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I'll also add that especially when solo touring on the coast, if I'm after finfish, I'll start fishing late morning. If all goes to plan, I can land with my catch, have a big fresh seafood lunch, take a siesta as the afternoon winds blow, then hop back in my boat (which has been thoroughly washed with salt water soap, as have my sprayskirt and paddling clothes), then paddle a kilometer or two to where I'll make camp. This way I'm not sleeping near the odours of cooking or fish guts.

Harder to do that with crab fishing, since you generally want the trap sitting on the bottom for at least one full tide cycle. So where ever possible when crabbing, I camp on small islands far enough from the mainland or other large islands that the risk of bears being around is reduced.
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Thanks all. Good advice here. I’ll think I’ll go back to the hand line and keep things simple.

Philip, I like your idea of fishing for lunch rather than dinner. Makes sense for the reasons you outlined.

If you are not actually into fishing that is probably a good choice.
Phil's fish lunch suggestion is a good one and echos some general advice when travelling in serious bear country, namely cook at lunch and have a cold meal for supper. I even take separate cooking clothes which get hung with the food.
Mind you, I don't go into those areas very often nowadays, and don't fish if I do...
Of course, Phil has more education than most of us in bear trouble...